Double or nothing: English teacher Diane Montgomery sets new marathon goal

Montgomery, as seen after finishing her 50th marathon. Photo provided by Diane Montgomery.

Montgomery, as seen after finishing her 50th marathon. Photo provided by Diane Montgomery.

By Emma Puglia and Jennifer Kusch

English teacher Diane Montgomery has become a local celebrity through her latest running milestone. The cross country coach recently completed her lifetime goal of running 50 marathons in 50 states before turning 50, making her the 11th Michigan woman to ever complete the 50-state milestone. Montgomery imposed her own deadline of her fiftieth birthday and finished her mission with a race in Connecticut, with just a month until her birthday.

Her renown extends beyond the school, and has garnered news attention at the local and state levels.

“Being on the front page of the Detroit Free Press was pretty exciting. That and also just people I know and love being able to share in my accomplishments and celebration,” Montgomery said.

“When people were recognizing me out in public at the (Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank) marathon on Sunday, that was weird for me. It’s also been nice because a lot of people have contacted me that I haven’t heard from in a while.”

Montgomery pursued these 50 marathons, inspired by her mother, who died of multiple sclerosis in 1999.

“It definitely inspired me growing up and watching her struggle to stay active and to appreciate my ability to be active,” Montgomery said. “I guess it plays into it in that I enjoyed the active aspect of running. I’ve been running throughout my adult life.” Montgomery said. “I enjoyed the active aspect of running.”

This challenge is uniquely troublesome, as it poses both physical and geographical barriers. Completing the races posed logistical issues, as the English teacher and two-sport coach had to travel across the country while working around school and sports.  

However, Montgomery enjoyed exploring the country and embraced her travels.

“I always like to try and find historical or literary things, like we went to the Mark Twain house, we’ve been to national parks and we tend to find interesting and different museums,” Montgomery said.

While some people try to reattempt their accomplishment of 50 races in 50 states, Montgomery is pursuing her pastime differently. Now that she has accomplished her eight-year journey, Montgomery has already set her sights on a different goal.

“100 marathons by age 60 seemed like a good one because that way it frees me up from having to do specific races in specific states,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery has already clocked a total of 60 marathons, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Photo courtesy of Diane Montgomery's Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Diane Montgomery’s Twitter.

Montgomery’s accomplishments have been brought back to the classroom, inspiring her own student athletes.

“She provides a lot of inspiration during my races and everything,” senior cross country captain Connor Sickmiller said. “She’s really supportive of everything I do and she’s just a great coach.”

While Montgomery’s newfound notoriety has reached across the state, her biggest fans have supported her throughout her 50 marathons.

“I helped Diane reach her goal by inspiring her to become a marathon runner,” said Montgomery’s sister Sarah Coleman via email.

The pair often run together and have supported each other through the years.

While Coleman prefers to run the half-marathon, she rushes to the finish line of the marathon to cheer her sister on as she finishes the last stretch of many of the 26.2-mile courses.

Coleman continued her support throughout Montgomery’s mission, running with her in Hartford and organizing a surprise party for her afterward to celebrate her milestone with coworkers, family and friends.

“It was a great surprise celebration,” Coleman said.

Photo courtesy of Diane Montgomery's Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Diane Montgomery’s Twitter.

Her family and friends now are looking forward to her newest milestone, and Montgomery has her eyes set on the future.

“I started to think that after I finished this goal there might be a little bit of depression because I’ve been working on this one for so long,” Montgomery said. “The logical step was to turn around and make a new goal.”

Want to read more about Montgomery’s 50 in 50? Check out Issue 2 of North Pointe here.